To my child: Watching you learn to read is a true gift

You are whispering under your breath again—careful you, wary of letting loose the words before they are perfect, before you have conquered them, while you still have to try. You're a few yards away from me in the corner, and you have determined that I must be too distracted to notice you working, to catch the sound of your still-baby voice tripping over syllables, slowly giving life, in your whispered breath, to a world.

You are five, and you are reading, and I am watching a universe open up before you.

If you are like me, you will learn the words, collect and keep them, and they will carry you. You will line your pockets and backpacks and shelves with books. You will have one with you always, most of the time with it open before you.

You will find out that passionate story consumption is an extreme sport in its own right when you skin your knees tripping over curbs and cracks in the sidewalk, or fall off the porch swing distracted. Or when you wake to a bruise on your nose where you dropped a novel nodding off to sleep.

You will decline parties in favor of the journeys you will find within pages. You will walk into libraries and feel your heart skip at the blissful overwhelming number of choices to make, of novels to rest in, or escapes to be had.

You will write your own story, your own person, by trying on the voices of your favorite characters, your soul an amalgam of the heroines you know so well you can't help but become them.

You are five, and you are reading, and you are only beginning.

If you are like me, you will walk now into a world with new definitions. You will race your own mind memorizing spellings and origins, you will learn to twist the words and bend them. You will craft them into a superpower, a cloak of invisibility, a battle ax and a shield.

You will swoon when someday, someone sends you words in a way that you didn't predict them. You will fill journals with teenage tears and early wisdom. You will be able to trace the timeline of your childhood by the way, year by year, new collections of words transition from mysterious to known. You will spend summers lost in pages, lost in becoming, lost in the words. There will be no limit to the places and heartbeats and battles and worlds you will visit. There will be no limit to the distance you can travel in so very little time.

But today, you are five, and the door is only opening.

Today, you are keeping your eyes on the windows, watching the letters you've been reciting suddenly start telling their secrets. Until now, they've been loved individuals, but here they are teaming up to tell you stories, choreographing themselves into dances entirely new. All at once you are holding within you the ability to interpret and tame them, turn them into answers, turn them into something known.

All at once, your language has a new dimension—suddenly, you can know without hearing, you can learn without having to ask. All at once, I am no longer your only conduit and key to information—suddenly, you are becoming curator of your own museum of facts and fictions and truths and names.

If you are like me, you will never stop seeking them. For years, you will read every road sign and sidewalk chalk scribble, every bus stop schedule, every menu posted on a restaurant door, collecting the words and making them your own.

You are five, and you are reading, though you aren't yet ready to tell me. You are five, and you are reading, and for a moment, it is only yours.

"Oh, Chili's," you whisper in the car as we pass it. "Oh, Woolen Ln. Oh, exxxxxit. Oh, road work ahead."

I keep my eyes forward while my heart leaps. I keep my praise to myself so as not to let you know I know, not until you are ready, not until you invite me in. I keep my excitement from tumbling out in long streams of proud mama words that might interrupt the silent magic being born in the car seat behind me.

I keep my words quiet, so as not to interrupt the wonder of your words becoming yours.

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When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.


Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.


Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.


Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.


boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.


Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.


Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.


Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this


Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.

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